Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To Thee we sing.
The words above come from the fourth stanza of the song I learned in school when I was a child. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” was a part of the patriotic songs learned by most school children a few decades ago. The song was written in 1831 by a seminary student, Samuel Francis Smith, and served as one of the unofficial national anthems until 1931 when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as the official national anthem. Alongside of the fact that this song can give rise to patriotic stirrings in the heart, it expresses some deep theological truths.
Hearing it sung yesterday on Independence Day I was struck by the description of God as the “Author of Liberty.” I imagine this stood out to me because as I have been thinking and reading about the kingdom of God, I have come to realize that liberty is a key characteristic of God’s kingdom. While it seems from the context of the song that Samuel Smith was probably thinking more about political and religious freedom than spiritual freedom, his description of God as the “Author of Liberty” speaks to the truth that all liberty is a gift from God and that spiritual liberty is a blessing received for being a part of His kingdom.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people…
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
This prophesy coming from Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:68-75 declares the liberty that was coming through the arrival of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus God visits and redeems His people. The word “redeemed” has reference to a ransom paid to set people free who are in bondage. The coming of Christ to establish God’s kingdom on earth was about far more than the forgiveness of sins. Many people today limit the redeeming work of Christ in this age to being forgiven, but still remaining hopelessly bond in sin. However, God declares through the mouth of Zacharias that the redemptive work of Christ is also about deliverance from our enemies. The bondage to sin, death, and Satan are broken through the redemptive work of Christ.
God speaking through the apostle Paul declares this deliverance in the letter to the Colossians,
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In this passage Paul declares that God delivers us from the “domain of darkness” so that we can be a part of His kingdom. Observe that this deliverance is not a future reality, but in the original Greek signifies a past action that took place at a point in time. This deliverance is a present reality that allows us to live in Christ’s kingdom under the dominion of light instead of darkness. This is redemption and it is associated with the forgiveness of our sins. This implies that forgiveness of sins never stands alone in God’s kingdom. Forgiveness of sins is always accompanied by the deliverance from the power of the sins for which we have been forgiven. God’s intent is to set us free from the domain of sin so as not to repeat the sins that have been forgiven.
This leads to the positive side of redemption. We have not been set at liberty from our enemies just to return to the same life of bondage. Zacharias declares that we are redeemed, set free, to live this life in righteousness and holiness. In other words, we are given liberty to live life as God created us to live. We were created to live in righteousness and holiness. Through the redeeming work of Jesus we are at liberty to live the way He created us. Only through Jesus are we free to live up to our God created potential. Only through Jesus do we have the liberty to be who God created us to be.
God is truly the “Author of Liberty.” All true liberty comes from God, political, religious, and spiritual. We are blessed to live in a country where we can enjoy all three, but while we enjoy political and religious freedom, many people in our nation live under the domain of darkness. They are bound by the chains of sin. They are imprisoned under the sentence of death. Satan is calling the shots in their life.
Jesus declared in Luke 4:18-19,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He took this prophetic word from Isaiah and told the people in that Nazarene synagogue that these words spoke of Him. This was what He was sent to do. He then promises to us the same Holy Spirit and said that He would send us in the same way He was sent. Therefore, the same Spirit that was poured out on Jesus is poured out on us so that we might proclaim liberty to the oppressed.
Being OnMISSION is declaring liberty to the oppressed. We have to opportunity to declare the greatest message of good news in the world. He forgives us. He sets us free from our past guilt and the sentence of death. He also delivers us from the bondage of sin so that we can live as He created us to live. We can declare to people that God is the “Author of Liberty.’